Learning From the Florida Industry as to How Bad it Can Be
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
The severe effects of the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease on Florida citrus is cause for California growers to take important preventative measures to ensure the safety of their trees. Keith Watkins, vice president of outside operations for Bee Sweet Citrus, has seen the damage firsthand and has been hard at work to protect his trees.
“I’ve been to Florida, and I’ve seen how devastating the disease can be,” he said. “We have to spend money now to basically prevent that from happening to us.”
There are currently around 1100 trees that have tested positive for HLB in the Orange County and Anaheim-Garden Grove areas, but they are mainly backyard citrus trees. Luckily, Watkins said that the disease has not yet been traced in commercial operations.
Keeping HLB out of commercial growth is the biggest challenge growers face. There is not yet a cure for the disease, but according to Watkins, growers can help prevent it from reaching their crops by staying on top of killing psyllids when spotted. “We have to stay diligent. Our future really is maintaining a psyllid free population,” he said.
California Citrus Mutual Commends Congress for Action on 2018 Farm Bill
This week, the U.S. Senate and the House passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation will direct agricultural policy and authorize funding for key agricultural programs in the federal government for the next 5 years.
President Trump has the opportunity to enact the 2018 Farm Bill before the end of the year.
CCM President Joel Nelsen offers the following statement:
“California Citrus Mutual applauds the Farm Bill conferees and House and Senate Ag Committees for moving forward a bill that includes priority programs for specialty crop producers. Jeff Denham, Jim Costa, and Jimmy Panetta were crucial voices for California farmers on the House Ag Committee. Along with Representatives Julia Brownley, Ken Calvert, and David Valadao, the California Members were instrumental to securing funding for research, trade and market enhancement, and pest and disease prevention that will directly benefit California specialty crop producers.
“With support from Congressmen Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes and Senators Feinstein and Harris, key programs and funding for the U.S. citrus industry will continue in the next Farm Bill.
“The U.S. citrus industry will receive funding to continue priority research to identify a solution to Huanglongbing, a devastating plant disease that is threatening the sustainability of our domestic citrus industry. This is a significant win for U.S. citrus growers.
“On behalf of the California citrus industry, I thank the Congressmen and Congresswoman, our U.S. Senators, and our colleagues in the specialty crop industry who worked diligently over the past several months to create a bipartisan Farm Bill that provides crucial resources to ensure our farmers can continue providing nutritious produce to Americans and people around the world.”
The 2018 Farm Bill includes $25 million per year for 5 years starting in 2019 for research specific to the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid and deadly plant disease Huanglongbing (HLB). This Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund will build upon the program created in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) title in the 2014 Farm Bill and complements the $40 million per year program funded by California citrus growers to stop the spread of HLB.
The legislation also includes funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Additionally, funding will continue for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which helps growers overcome artificial trade barriers. TASC has been in operation for over fifteen years and was created to address sanitary and phytosanitary issues and technical barriers to trade that prohibit or threaten exports of U.S. specialty crops.
HLB Funds To Be Used by the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program
Recognizing the importance of protecting California’s commercial citrus industry and backyard citrus trees, Governor Jerry Brown’s 2018-19 California state budget includes $12.5 million from the general fund dedicated to fighting an incurable citrus disease called Huanglongbing (HLB).
Signed last week, the funds will be used by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP), a program primarily funded by California citrus growers and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The CPDPP helps detect and eradicate Huanglongbing in residential areas, suppress Asian citrus psyllid populations, control the movement of the Asian citrus psyllid, enforce regulations, and fund outreach programs to homeowners, industry members and local governments.
While Governor Brown’s commitment to helping fight HLB is a step in the right direction, California citrus is at a crossroads. More than 685 cases of Huanglongbing have been detected in California, with more than 350 detections in 2018 alone, all in urban areas of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
Critical ACP, HLB Funding Comes Only After Industry Helps Itself
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
State Citrus Mutuals in California, Texas and Florida are diligently working in Washington, D.C., for $10 to 12 million in annual funding to help their citrus regions fight Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) infestation and Huanglongbing (HLB), the disease that ACPs vector.
The three Citrus Mutuals have collaborated well for the half dozen years of the American ACP invasion. Initially, the Florida Citrus Mutual team developed the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP),” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.
“They initiated it at a very minor funding level. However we sat down with them and said, ‘Look, this is an opportunity to ensure that all of the U.S. citrus industry can work together to protect itself from Huanglongbing.’ They were gracious enough to say okay. We exerted our leadership because we had people in positions in Washington who could be very beneficial to this,” Nelsen said.
“Initially it was a Florida/California effort. We said we need to double the size of the CHRP program and allocate more dollars to California, some to Texas, and some to Arizona. Now everybody is participating to the extent that they can. Today, it is still a Florida/California effort and a Florida/California-run program in partnership with USDA.
Nelsen said those involved are working hard to protect the citrus industry, and not just chasing a problem. Funding has been helpful to California. Only after the industry does all it can, will the state expect the federal government to help.
“It’s true for all three states’ industries,” Nelsen said. Unfortunately, Texas made a mistake. They did not have a policy in place to immediately remove an HLB-infected tree. As a result, they have an HLB infection spreading.”
“Texas is being adversely impacted on the dollar level. We don’t want to see that industry die, so there is a partnership that does exist on behalf of our colleagues,” Nelsen said. “We can’t afford to make mistakes like that.”
“In order to justify the continued progress of funding on an annual basis we are going to have to continue looking ahead, taking the steps necessary and doing what is needed to protect the citrus industry from the spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing.”
“We definitely have to show progress. We can’t ask homeowners to spray their trees if in fact we are not spraying ours. We can’t ask the federal government to continue helping us looking for ACPs if we are not willing to tarp our trucks to stop the spread of it. If we’re not willing to do a coordinated spray program then why should the government help us in finding HLB? If we are allowing snake oil merchants to conduct research projects, why should the federal government fund those?